The meaning of an independent candidate

SIMBA Makoni has announced repeatedly that he is an independent candidate in the March 29 elections but it appears that some people, including a huge section of the media, does not seem to grasp the concept.

The media has tended to create more confusion because they have also failed to realise that independent candidates can still be supported by some political parties but that support does not necessarily translate into an alliance.

Zanu PF card holders can vote for an MDC candidate. The MDC Tsvangirai formation have not challenged Jonathan Moyo; it does not necessarily mean that Moyo is no longer an independent candidate, so why this confusion with Makoni when he insists he is an independent candidate?

My suspicion is that, while there are some people who are genuinely unaware of what it means to be an independent candidate, there are some who would like to portray Makoni as someone who is not sincere, in this case to Mutambara’s MDC after they endorsed Makoni.

It does not even mean that these people who are against Makoni like Mutambara’s MDC either, they are the same who have fielded candidates in every constituency where the Mutambara MDC formation has a strong chance of winning.

 Makoni told the Standard: “I am an independent candidate. How can you be an independent and have an alliance at the same time? I don’t have to be in an alliance (with political parties). I am with the people and for the people.”

The Mutambara MDC formation have not issued further statements on Makoni’s candidature because as far as they know he is an independent candidate, and one would think that this is common sense, but not to some sections of the media. While the term independent candidate is self-explanatory, the concept of being independent has eluded some people and it should be explained.

I have relied generously on the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which states the obvious. In politics, an independent is a politician who is not affiliated with any political party.

In countries with a two-party system, independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between the two parties, they may hold an extremist viewpoint that goes beyond that of either major parties, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they don’t feel either party addresses.

Not only do we have independent candidates; we also have independent voters. Being a card carrying member does not mean that you vote the party whose card you carry or whose rally you attend.

No! Many people did not attend and do not attend rallies probably because they know already what is going to be said or because they are tired of slogans and they have made up their minds already whom they will vote for.

Where I come from in the Midlands, it was always wise to have cards for both Zanu PF and PF Zapu during the Gukurahundi era and it was also important and adaptive to speak both Ndebele and Shona and play ball with whoever called the shots.

Even to this day, the clever ones in some politically volatile parts of Zimbabwe have dual political identities (MDC and Zanu PF).
 
The Wikipedia defines an independent voter… as a voter who votes for candidates and issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship; a voter who does not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party; a voter who does not usually vote for the same political party from election to election; or a voter who self-describes as an independent.

Being an independent candidate does not mean that you have no friends or sympathisers, it simply means friends are not relatives; it is called de-alignment and it is a strategy which might be an option in a country like Zimbabwe which is so polarised.
 
De-alignment leads to the rise of candidate-centered elections in which parties and ideologies play little part.

Without parties, candidates rely ever-more heavily on mass media for communication, political action committees for funds, special interest groups for staff, and political consultants for expertise.
 
If elected to power, Makoni is quoted as saying that he would form a government of national unity which he preferred to call the “National Authority”, which would spearhead national re-engagement. He says he will look in the legislature for the best from the MDC, Zanu PF, independents and people from other smaller parties to be in government.
 
Apart from the unnecessary confusion being created by conspiracy theorists who are usual suspects trying to discredit Makoni, he appears to be working for national unity and is ready to embrace everyone.

Zimbabwe does not need a party that claims to have all solutions by itself, especially with people who have no experience of running anything successfully. Makoni’s independent candidacy provides a political centre ground for those people fed up with political extremism.

Msekiwa Makwanya,
makwanya@yahoo.com